There were so many explosive chemicals littering a California house that bomb technicians have set the alleged "bomb factory" of George Jakubec ablaze rather than try to remove the material.
Jakubec, an unemployed software engineer, faces federal charges of bank robbery and bombmaking after the discovery late last month of what may be the largest cache of homemade explosives ever assembled in the U.S.
On Thursday, authorities closed Interstate 15 and evacuated a neighborhood before setting Jakubec's rented Escondido house on fire just after 11 a.m. local time. To protect nearby houses from the flames, firefighters had surrounded the home with a 16-foot-tall dry-wall fence and then smeared the barrier with fire gel before igniting the fire by remote control. The fire was expected to last four hours.
Jakubec's lawyer had asked a judge to stop the demolition of the house so the defendant could retrieve "papers, journals and other items in the house that may help [him] prove his intent or his mental state." A judge ruled that the destruction could move forward, however, after an FBI bomb technician testified that Jakubec's backyard was a "minefield" and that a bomb tech walking in the yard had stepped on something that made a loud pop and burned the bottom of his shoe.
The explosives cache was discovered Nov. 18 when another man literally stumbled over it, though with more serious consequences. Gardener Mario Garcia stepped on something in Jakubec's yard and triggered an explosion that injured his eye, arm and chest.
When federal and local officials came to investigate, they found eight pounds of the homemade explosive HMTD buried in the yard, and more HMTD inside the one-story wooden home north of San Diego. They also say they found nine detonators and 13 unfilled homemade grenades with attached shrapnel.
San Diego County Deputy D.A. Terri Perez called the discovery a "bomb factory" and said it was "the largest quantity of these types of homemade explosives at one place in the United States."
"He had the makings of a bomb lab," said Perez. "He had precursors to making these explosives. He had detonators, he had grenades and so essentially he could make these destructive devices, and had completed several of them."